Tuesday, March 22nd was World Water Day. This day was established to raise awareness and provide opportunities for the international community to get involved with water-related issues and broader WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) initiatives. One day out of the entire year is dedicated to what millions of us take for granted, but also what millions more around the world lack: safe water.
One organization that thinks about safe water and improved sanitation practices 365 days out of the year is Splash. We had the chance to get together with Splash at their headquarters on WWD to hear Founder & Director Eric Stowe and Director of Business Development Cyndie Berg discuss their current work, as well as the focus ares for 2016 and beyond.
Having worked with Splash over the past year, we know quite a bit about them. If you don’t, here’s the gist: As a group of highly driven, passionate, and razor-sharp people, Splash seeks to provide clean, safe water and improve daily hygiene habits for hundreds of thousands of kids living in impoverished urban areas. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will reside in cities that already have a strained infrastructure with current populations. Splash is trying to stay ahead of the migration by targeting institutions in these areas that serve the younger generations. They look to serve schools in cities like Kolkata and Katmandu. One of their most ambitious goals: provide clean water for every orphanage in China by 2017. That’s over 150,000 children across 1,300 locations, and they’re already 75% of the way there. They are also present in Nepal, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand, and other areas with high populations and limited availability to safe water.
I can talk about this organization all day. From their mission to their execution to their mindset, Splash is leading a new generation of non-profit organizations. They ultimately strive to serve 0 kids – “kill your charity” as Eric calls it. It’s what makes us so proud to be a partner with Splash, and so excited for what they have in store in the coming months. Check them out.
Out of all my friends that just graduated college, I’m one of the extremely lucky few who can honestly say they’re looking forward to going to work everyday. Sure, we all have had our share of frustrating days and Sunday ‘scaries,’ but I couldn’t imagine a world without my BPR family. When chatting with my friends, there are so many people in their first job that absolutely despise it, even to the point where they dread the daily grind. It might be the commute into work, unchallenging day-to-day tasks, a shitty manager, or a difficult client, but all these little things build up and can really make a person miserable.
Now, fortunate enough for me the commute to work is about a 10-minute walk (or a 3 minute rollerblade), the work we do is challenging yet rewarding and varies day to day, and my manager truly cares about my career and personal life. Other people might not be as lucky as we are to start a job that will enable them to build a solid professional path to success while building valuable relationships.
Yes, we’re all about the crazy PR-life, but everyone has a passion outside of work, too. Whether it’s playing or listening to music, spending the weekend outdoors hiking or skiing, photography, or maybe you’re passionate about volunteering – we’re not all slaves to the workplace. Working at Barokas for the last 9 months has made me realize how important it is to pursue your passions outside of PR. It’s vital to your personal happiness and career to create your own path to happiness in your job.
What ever it is, Barokas is a workplace that enables you to explore what you find rewarding in life. For me, I graduated college with a dual degree in HR and marketing, and I have always wanted to be able to use my passion for this field in a productive way. By helping out with whatever HR programs we have at Barokas — for example helping to update the employee handbook, mentoring interns and interviewing potential candidates — I’ve been able to create more happiness for myself.
Everyone has a passion, find it and let BPR be the place where you get to explore it 🙂
PR folks are news hounds. We live and breathe trending stories, industry influencers, and all of us have our favorite publications or journalists (“friendlies” in media jargon) that we work with on a regular basis. It’s one of the reasons why I’m so drawn to PR as an occupation, and I’m sure is true for many others here at BPR and across the industry.
But what about when we aren’t combing the news for our clients? What do we read in our spare time? What do we read to be entertained, enlightened, or engaged in a new school of thought? Over the past week, I’ve posed this question to 30 people in our office. Now there’s a reason why I’m in PR and not in data collection, so I will spare you all the percentages, breakdowns, and other statistical analysis (which probably wouldn’t come out right anyway), and cut to the chase with some high level takeaways.
Our Clients Love Top Tier Business Publications – And Boy We Do Too
New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and NBC. Oh baby do we love the business publications. It’s no secret these outlets bring in some of the highest readership numbers in the business, and while we target them for all kinds of stories for our clients, it turns out we are visiting them in our spare time as well – and for all sorts of reasons. These pubs drive huge traffic in part because of their diversity, and respondents mentioned visiting these sites for political, international, and pop-culture news, indicating not everyone is seeking the same type of news. CNN, The Guardian, and Huffington Post rounded out some of the other names in this category.
News Aggregates – The Lazy Efficient Way to Sift Through News
News aggregate services are a highly effective way to scour a wide array of publications at once. We use them for work on a daily basis, and you can bet they are also a staple in our personal lives. Twitter, unsurprisingly, rises to the top in this category. Flipboard, Feedly, and Google News round out the players this category. In contrast to observation #1, we see a story that catches our eye and follow it, rather than visiting a specific publication and then seek out an article.
Buzzfeed Dominates The Millennial Market
There is a swath of publications rising through the ranks that specifically target the millennial reader base. As PR pro Sam Whitmore pointed out his Feb. 29 “Notes from the Field”, these outlets serve as high-tier journalist breeding grounds and manage to churn out a significant stream of media everyday.
With that said, Buzzfeed is King.
Elite Daily is a not-so-close second, with the likes of Mic and Mashable only visited by a handful of employees. The millennial part held true in this unofficial company survey, as nearly all respondents who cited Buzzfeed were on the younger side of the age spectrum. It’s also important to note that Buzzfeed was often mentioned in tandem with strict news outlets like NYT or NBC, indicating the site’s entertainment value likely trumps its quality of news and that same person visits other sites for their true dose of news.
Company Leadership has a…diverse…set of outlets
The three VPs at BPR, our fearless leaders, have quite a hefty workload on their plate, and the only thing I can think of is that recreational news-reading at home provides a much needed outlet. They were the only respondents to cite People Magazine, Esquire, Men’s Journal, Men’s Health Magazine (Author’s Note: all three VPs are women) and the Journal of Psychology. I’ll let Jo in Denver off easy – she dips into Huffington Post and Real Simple – but it just goes to show we read just about everything here at BPR.
Sometimes the most important data point is the one that’s missing. In this last section, I’m going to quickly address some personally surprising things in this survey.
Local news: Only a few of our survey participants reported being actively engaged in local publications. Puget Sound Business Journal, The Denver Post, and a local news channel were the only mentions in the responses.
Themed Magazines: Besides the VPs, very few people reported reading magazines. One fashion and two outdoor recreation readers was all she wrote. RIP print?
We are a pretty diverse group of people at BPR, and that’s reflected in how we choose to consume media in our own time. But one way or another, nearly all of us are in love with the news.
We see them all the time and can’t help but cringe. Little PR missteps waste golden opportunities and end in rounds of negative press all of which could have been avoided with one small tweak in strategy. The latest is the saga of Yelp. If you haven’t already heard, two female Yelp employees took to social media and medium to express distain at their employer for treating them poorly during times of personal hardship. One detailed how difficult it was for her to survive in San Francisco on her meager salary, while the other shared her anger at being penalized for taking days off to be in the hospital with her ailing boyfriend. They call it “employer shaming” and it’s become a virtual epidemic with the introduction of GlassDoor, Medium, and Twitter. Now while I don’t condone bashing your employer publically as a smart move, what happened next is where things really went south.
Yelp’s CEO fired both employees. Some of you reading this may feel this was a logical business response and they had it coming to them, but it’s really beside the point. From a PR perspective this is a disaster. Not only did Yelp take the negative hit from the initial employer shaming, the company’s response triggered a whole new round of coverage debating the impact of its harsh reaction. Media had plenty of ammunition to work with too in validating their positions including all the negative coverage blaming the tech industry for the skyrocketing costs of San Francisco living, and press on how women don’t want to work in the businesses because it’s such an old boy’s club. The tech industry is tight on talent, and with major players like Yelp having to compete with giants like Google, Apple, and Salesforce in the bay for employees a bad PR move like this one could really cripple them in the HR fight.
One episode of Undercover Boss and you’ve got the makings of a much better PR strategy for how to handle this new employer shaming epidemic. In times of personal hardship, even if the company isn’t responsible and even if the employee blames them, the best response always both privately and publically as a company is to express authentic empathy. It’s that moment of reality TV we wait for in every episode when the employer and employee alike come together to recognize neither of their jobs are easy, shed tears like real people, and make a game plan for moving forward. The public eats this kind of positive real human interaction up. This is priceless positive PR.
Let’s rewind the Yelp cluster then for example sake. Suppose Yelp’s CEO had instead reached out to them directly, expressed empathy, asked them for suggestions on how to improve their experience at the company, promised to address their issues, and posed for the obligatory side hug photo. What if he’d responded with his own contributed piece on Medium sharing his experience and what he’d learned in the process? People, especially women, would probably stop to say “Wow! Yelp really gets it, they care” or “I wish I could work for a place like that.” Transforming the messaging exactly like this is really the backbone of what PR is meant to deliver.
Since I’m dishing out advice to Yelp CEOs, I don’t want to overlook the employees he left behind either. But, I’ll take my advice and get a little more personal. I’m pregnant and it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in life by far. My employer has been both authentic and empathetic throughout the whole process. Barokas PR has also been incredibly flexible with my hospital stays and need to work from home. Always be on the lookout to work for companies who have your back in times of personal hardship as they are hard to come by.
Last week I had the honor of attending my client’s annual conference, this year hosted in San Antonio, Texas. For three and a half days, I assisted the marketing team as we hosted media events and press briefings, prepared executive keynotes, and ate our weight in guacamole.
With the conference center a mere 10-minute walk from the famous Alamo Mission, I couldn’t resist taking a lunch break to visit the scene of the crime.
Which crime, you ask? Why, the theft of Pee-wee Herman’s bicycle! Visions of the movie danced through my head as I made my way to the historic landmark.
There it was, nestled in a neighborhood that brags a Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Fuddruckers, Haagen Dazs, and H&M: The Alamo.
For those of you unfamiliar with this classic tale, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) is a comedy (very loosely) based on the 1948 classic film The Bicycle Thief. Pee-wee is a friendly and well-dressed dude who has a breakfast-making machine, rabbit slippers, and a radical bicycle that his neighbor, Francis, covets. When Pee-wee’s bike is stolen at the mall (you remember malls, right?), he seeks help from a psychic, who says that his bike is in the basement of the Alamo. Hilarity ensues as Pee-wee treks to Texas to retrieve his prized possession. The one thing I remember about The Alamo – that I learned in the movie – is that The Alamo DOES NOT have a basement. Other fun facts: The film was co-written by Phil Hartman (RIP!), was directed by Tim Burton (his first full-length feature film), and boasts Danny Elfman’s first film score.
While The Alamo itself did not have quite the same memorable effect on me as this cult-classic movie, I am happy that I took a rare lunch break during conference to visit the site. Conferences can be a blur of press release editing, event setting, and hob-knobbing, so it is important to take a step back when possible and remember … The Alamo.
Next time on the BPR Blog … how to make the perfect Mr. Breakfast face.
“Show me a man who doesn’t enjoy a good nacho and I’ll show you a liar.” – Mahatma Gandhi, probably
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved nachos. They were a staple at the Little League concession stand. Paired with some candy cigarettes and it didn’t matter if we won or lost. Years later, my mom would go the Sam’s route and buy a tub of glorious golden processed cheese. It was my Winnie the Pooh honey pot. And going to the movies without getting nachos? Well you’re basically spitting on the American flag.
You see, I am a nacho man. Always have been. No matter where I go for dinner, nachos are the play. They’re delicious, they’re affordable and they’re safe. Outside of the monsters that use Tostitos Scoops for their chip of choice, it’s nearly impossible to mess up a plate of nachos. I mean, once you have the framework of chips, cheese and protein, it’s really just a matter of preferential toppings (author choice: light salsa, sour cream, guacamole and jalapenos…if you include beans or olives I will go full Chris Farley coffee hidden camera).
If we go to a restaurant that has nachos, my meal is – at minimum – a 7/10. And there’s no way I’m going home hungry. I am confident the nachos will be good, even those bottom chips that have gotten soggy under the excess cheese. I can’t say the same about anything else on the menu. Just don’t know. Sure, the flank steak, cheesy mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach SOUNDS interesting. But they also might make me break out in shingles. I don’t know how the science works but I do know nachos have never been tied to shingles. Ever.
And so it goes, this boring culinary existence. It is a lifelong practice that has served my taste buds well. And if there is one thing I’ve learned from this cheesy, diabetes-foreshadowing way of life that has guided me throughout my PR days, it’s this: When it comes to PR, do not order the nachos.
You know why nachos are so popular? Okay, yes, because they have a lot of cheese and carbs. But also because everyone can make them. Sure, you won’t hate them – how could you – but you won’t be talking about them the next day either. Nachos make for boring PR. Delicious breakfast. Boring PR.
Clients don’t hire us to give them nachos. They know what nachos taste like. If they wanted nachos, they’d make them in house and hire a cheaper agency to just dump chips on a plate and hand them a jar of queso. And they’d probably use Tostitos Scoops like the animals they are.
Clients expect their PR agency to try everything on the menu, to analyze every entree, mix platters, even try to order something off-menu. Chicken nuggets and a Twinkie at Wolfgang Puck’s? Sure, we’ll give it a shot.
With each new announcement, promotion or thought-leadership initiative, don’t settle on the same old boring nachos for your strategy. Think bigger. Think different. Don’t worry about being told that’s not possible or “we don’t serve that here.” The possibility of a bad meal shouldn’t prevent you from potentially discovering the greatest thing you’ve ever eaten. I fully endorse the Nacho Initiative at Chilli’s, but I can’t co-sign that for your media comms plan.
This isn’t to say we can’t order nachos from time to time. A world without nachos? Katniss Everdeen never saw a Hunger Games of that magnitude. Nachos are still good, and they can fill the gaps between these new, more farm-to-table-to-media impressions meal selections. But even when you do order the nachos, maybe try to change them up a bit. Slap a little bit bacon on there. Or put them in the oven to crisp them up. You might just uncover a new favorite meal, and a very happy client…whom you can celebrate with over a plate of nachos.
Wake up, check your phone or computer, read and respond to emails. Hop in the shower and get ready to go to work. Leave work and continue to have your phone buzz with emails or messages the rest of the night.
If this sounds like a routine you’re familiar with, you must be in the world of PR. Our industry requires us to frequently be available for our clients 24/7, even outside of the office. At Barokas PR, this means having Skype, Slack or Outlook push notifications popping up on your phone constantly.
At times, all of the notifications and constant email exchanges can get overwhelming. A major key to success (DJ Khaled reference intended) in PR is to learn how to achieve a work-life balance, something we have all likely struggled with at some point.
For me, that means taking coffee breaks throughout the day, going on a nice walk around downtown Denver and turning off my push notifications for work-related apps once I leave the office (don’t worry, folks, I still check my email and messages on my own time).
If eating together helps employees improve as a team, we must one of the best PR teams out there as we do plenty of things as a team outside of work. We take full advantage of happy hours (both the Seattle and Denver offices are conveniently located next to some cool bars), attend concerts together and, in Denver, utilize the Rocky Mountains.
This past weekend, the team took a trip up to Vail & Beaver Creek for a nice weekend getaway and some team bonding time. We even had a couple Seattle BPR members join in on the fun!
The team, as well as a few family members and friends, spent the first night sharing pizza together as a group, kicking back some beers (in our case, mostly bottles of champagne), and bonding over a nice game of Cards Against Humanity before the bright and early 6 a.m. wake up call for the mountains.
Most of the team went skiing and snowboarding, but some of us opted for snowshoeing or taking in the sights at the base of the mountain with a pint in hand. If you haven’t been to Beaver Creek or Vail, time to put it on your list of places to see. Here’s a little taste for you all:
And, of course, no ski trip is complete without beer in the village:
Remember: co-workers who play together, stay together. Until next time, ski-nanigans in Vail/Beaver Creek!
Our Seattle office kicked off our very own book club this week (thanks to team Denver for the idea). Over the past month, we read The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. Horowitz tells the tale of his business ventures and is brutally honest about the trials and tribulations most entrepreneurs won’t put in print. He takes us through his experiences with founding, running, selling, buying, and managing a company. This book had a special place in BPR’s heart as we served as the agency of record for Opsware from the company’s early days as Loudcloud through its acquisition by HP.
Next up for the BPR-Seattle book club is The Martian so stay tuned!
Green is my favorite color—and you’d be hard pressed not to appreciate the hue, when after all, it represents so many great things: The environment, money, leafy vegetables, marijuana…
That last one is a more recent appreciation, one that the nation as a whole is just being to come around to embracing, or at the very least, granting their approval. With marijuana being pretty “green” on the legal market—pardon the pun—it’s an exciting time for the industry. In fact, it’s been compared to the early days of the railroad. It’s a newly discovered frontier – mysterious in that it’s unknown exactly where the future will lead, exhilarating in that it might be a risky investment, and wide open for those brave industry pioneers to stake a claim. This, of course, makes the industry an exciting opportunity for PR. As storytellers, the marijuana market is very much a ‘choose your own adventure’ novel —which story do you wish to tell? But in the same respect, if you choose the wrong one, it could end badly.
Taking on a marijuana client presented us with the perfect opportunity to really hit the ground running in this burgeoning industry. Being the No BS, brazen PR firm that we are, we accepted the challenge and signed our first marijuana client – Paper & Leaf, a retail cannabis store on Bainbridge Island.
Here are a few key takeaways we’d like to share since going green.
It’s not marijuana. It’s cannabis.
This was quite possibly the first rule we learned, and a tough habit to break. But be forewarned, to be taken seriously when speaking on the plant to the press or fellow members of the market, the word “marijuana” has the affect of dropping a vulgar curse word into the middle of your sentence. In many ways, the term marijuana has come to represent the plant’s ugly past as an illegal substance. In order to turn a new leaf, it needed a new name—which is where “cannabis” comes in. No one ever got arrested for carrying cannabis on his or her person.
It’s not one story. It’s many.
There isn’t just one story to tell with cannabis, and if you approach it like there is, you’ll run out of steam fast. Cannabis as an industry has many different facets,, and we’ve had the chance to explore many avenues of creativity through our work with Paper & Leaf.
We’ve pitched local press on the shop’s opening, we’ve pitched business press including a placement in Forbes on the unique aspects of owning a cannabis shop, we’ve pitched interior design pubs for the artistic aesthetics and atmosphere on how to make cannabis more approachable and welcoming, and we’ve pitched travel and tourism outlets on the idea that the State now has a new allure drawing in tourists curious about the face of legal retail cannabis. And of course, we’ve hit the cannabis specific pubs because, obviously. The list goes on.
It’s not illegal. But it’s not legal.
A big challenge we have faced alongside our client is that fact that as cannabis may be becoming more and more mainstream in certain areas of the country—it’s legalization is in the minority. There are still those fighting against it, and thus there are still those publications hesitant to support it by giving it space on the page. So while it can be challenging to pitch cannabis stories to the national press, it’s one we gladly accept and continue to tackle. Just like the early railroad engineers—we’re moving full steam ahead.
This is fancy phrase I like to use for not setting yourself or your team up for a predictable failure or busy work that doesn’t deliver value – two scenarios we unwittingly back ourselves into more times than we can count. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve used to escape the foreseeable:
Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Your client thinks their latest announcement is Wall Street Journal front page worthy, but you know better. Don’t just nod, because in doing so you’re making a promise you can’t keep. You’ll have to answer for it at some point, so there is no time like the here and now to set proper expectations.
Don’t BS Press. Reporters are the world’s greatest bulls**t detectors. If you’re pitching something that’s a stretch and you know it, just don’t. Don’t spell out the obvious, give them a history lesson on the industry, or tell them what they already know. Also, if you know there is vaporware in there then it’s your responsibility to warn your client that coverage can cut both ways.
Don’t become the middleman. This applies to both media and clients alike. For example, if your client insists on a fact check for stories, encourage them to ask the reporter themselves on a briefing. It’s harder for the reporter to say no to the CEO than it is to the PR rep. At the same time, if you know two client spokespeople have different visions for a product announcement, you’ll want to encourage them to get on the same page BEFORE you start drafting a release around its launch.
Do forget change is inevitable. Vague is your friend. It can be a balancing act, but if in doubt it’s always better error on the side of less is more. For example, if your worried that press release you’re pitching might slip then give reporters a window for the announcement and don’t set an exact date they can get attached to. You can always go back in a follow up with the exact timing once it’s shored up. And instead of detailing everything in a product announcement pitch, use a teaser approach that hints at one or two features. You can then reveal more with each follow up.
Don’t measure up. In the interest of truth, let’s all be honest here in saying PR isn’t exactly something you can measure with the exactness of a ruler. Complexities aside, the reason is because every person perceives differently. A glowing review can translate into a sarcastic slam depending on one’s knowledge of the issue. The Onion figured that out a long time ago. So, don’t assume things. For example, my pet peeve is dictating sentiment to your client by telling them they’ve received “positive” coverage or that their quote was “right on point.” They can read, and if they disagree you’ll hear about it. Instead, keep feedback Switzerland and focused on the content and if a desired messaging made the cut.
Do KISS (Keep it simple stupid) and tell. A reporter recently shared that it often takes 3-5 emails just to book a briefing. That’s nuts to me. Anytime you can eliminate steps in a bloated process like this it’s a win. It also decreases the margin for error and the odds someone will no show for the call (awkward). This also applies to the next time your client wants to schedule a brainstorm. Always bring 3-5 max to the table, and be ready to justify your favorite. Too many choices, and you’ll double the time it takes to get a decision to move forward with the best one.
More than any one thing on this list though–trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel safe or right, it probably isn’t. Stop in that moment and think about what you can do now to mitigate any potential consequences of the decision if it does go south down the road. And if you find yourself in jail, facing the penalties and feeling the sting of regret, remember life’s greatest lessons are learned from failures. You never have to make the same mistake twice.